By Sufuyan Ojeifo
IF the invasion of the Senate in plenary on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 by two thugs sponsored by suspended Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central), during which they attacked the Mace, the legislative symbol of authority, and made away with it in a Rambo-like operation, is a foreshadow of what to expect in the weeks and months ahead of the 2019 general elections, then we must all worry.
To be sure, Omo-Agege was suspended for his remarks that the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act that reordered the sequence of the 2019 general elections, moving the presidential election from the first to the last in the sequence, was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari.
Prior to his suspension, Omo-Agege had apologised to the Senate in plenary; but, in a volte-face, he had proceeded to file a suit against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Senate when he got wind that the Ethics and Privileges Committee had recommended him for suspension from legislative activities for 180 days.
But the Senate, considering the plea by Saraki, decided to reduce the 180-day suspension by a half to 90 days. This, according to the Senate, was to serve as deterrent to other senators who might contemplate taking the Senate to court over its powers to regulate or determine its internal affairs.
Omo-Agege, instead of allowing the matter in court to run its full course, was beside himself and decided to resort to that odious self-help. I wonder what he intended to achieve by that. Will his storming the Senate with thugs and disrupting its sitting in a day force a reversal of the decision to suspend him? Certainly not! Instead, it would worsen his situation as it has done.
Did he think that the attack on that particular Mace could have prevented a replacement with another Mace? There are so many Maces in the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms that could serve as replacement. I just cannot understand what Omo-Agege, a supposed gentleman, wanted to achieve. It is sad that a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria lost his sense of equanimity when it mattered most and ended up being a misguided role model.
He is an unfortunate proxy in a seeming battle in defence of the electoral interest of the President. If the motivation for the show of shame was to ingratiate himself to the Presidency in the battle for 2019 tickets of the APC, then beyond being an unenviable role model and unfortunate proxy, he is a reprehensible tragic hero, putting his reputation and family name at stake.
How could an elderly man, head of family and father who is supposedly educated descend so low into the gutter in a desperate bid to achieve an end that is at best mundane? “A good name,” according to the Bible (Proverbs 22.1), “is more desirable than great riches and a loving favour rather than silver and gold.”
By that treasonable act of attacking the authority of a revered democratic institution of the Senate of which he is a part, even though suspended for 90 days, Omo-Agege is nothing but a felon and should be appropriately dealt with in accordance. He has lost his respect as a senator in the estimation of well-meaning Nigerians.
I watched as he was being led away by two very senior Police officers into the back seat of a waiting Hilux van and driven away amid the blaring of siren. That was a pitiable anti-climax to an action that could not escape essential indictment as jejune. The Omo-Agege saga is a reminder of another similar incident that another politician from Delta State choreographed in 2015 at the International Conference Centre where the result of the presidential election was being collated.
I refer to former Minister of Niger-Delta, Elder Peter Godsday Orubebe, who was the agent of President Goodluck Jonathan where the results of the presidential elections were being announced. At a point, on March 15, 2015, Orubebe went overboard, seized the microphone and for several minutes, insisted that the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, leave the centre because, according to him, he was biased against the ruling PDP.
Openly accusing Jega of being “tribalistic and partial,” he said the INEC chairman acted promptly on the complaints from the opposition APC but refused to accept a petition from the PDP. Although that did not deter Jega from seeing through his assignment, the Orubebe rascality that could have encouraged a rejection of the presidential election result by the PDP, was eventually put down by Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to, without consulting his party leaders, accept the result of the election in a historic telephone call to Muhammadu Buhari. That was even when two states were yet to be announced by the INEC.
I have drawn this comparison in order to question what the problem is with politicians from Delta State that accentuates their rascality. Well, it may not be solely peculiar to Delta, but the people of the state should begin to interrogate the antecedents and psychologies of those they vote in as their representatives in the National Assembly as from 2019.
Other states should follow suit. It is unfortunate that Omo-Agege found himself on the wrong side of the authority in the Senate; otherwise, this side of him would not have been known. His colleague, Dino Melaye, from Kogi State, obviously has more capacity and multiple competencies for mischief than Omo-Agege, but he is on the right side of the Senate authority and he is being mollycoddled; his nuisance values tolerated and deployed to utilitarian advantage.
I remember when Dino Melaye was a member of the House of Representatives, he fought on the floor of the House and had his dress torn into rags in defence of the then House leadership under the Speakership of Hon. Patricia Etteh. There were others who had, in the past, thrown decency to the wind and fought one another on the floor of the House.
Because of the youthfulness of the preponderant members of the House, they were and are still always eager to flex muscles and actually deliver the punches. But the Senate ambience is different. While senators are not given to fighting, they are at home exchanging banter. Historically, senators’ action of personally hijacking the Mace is not new to us, but the dimension that Omo-Agege has just introduced, sponsoring thugs to invade the chamber in plenary to attack and make away the symbol of authority is, no doubt, novel.
The ease at which the thugs entered the chamber and grabbed the Mace calls for a review of the security in and around the chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Besides, the legislators’ personal security should be taken seriously by them as the 2019 politicking for elective posts enter into frenzy.
Significantly, we should henceforth demand for proper and respectful conducts from our senators and spell it out to them that whoever perpetrates this sort of Omo-Agege’s rascality and allied misbehaviours, will be recalled. In fact, Nigerians in the various senatorial zones who know the antecedents of those aspiring to represent them, should use their votes to screen out the likes of Omo-Agege from finding their way to the Senate in particular and House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly in general. This will help to sanitise the legislative arm of government.
•Mr. Ojeifo, editor-in-chief of The Congresswatch Magazine, wrote from via [email protected]